James 'Bo' Gritz: Would-Be Kidnapper?

Patriot Crimes

Survivalist James "Bo" Gritz has been called many things: decorated Vietnam War hero and model for the "Rambo" movies, hapless champion of Americans lost in action in Southeast Asia, opportunistic anti-Semite.

Now, backers in the antigovernment "Patriot" movement are waiting to see if Gritz is to acquire a new title: attempted kidnapper.

After a series of delays, Gritz went on trial in Connecticut this January. He is accused of plotting to kidnap the eldest son of Linda Wiegand, a woman involved in a long-running custody dispute whose cause was taken up by Gritz more than three years ago.

Gritz and his son James were arrested on Sept. 30, 1996, in the parking lot of McAlister Middle School in Suffield, Conn., where Wiegand's son, then 10, was attending classes. In Gritz's vehicle, police found two-way radios, a photo of the boy, a school schedule, a large knife and a lockpicking device — the tools, authorities say, for a kidnapping.

In late January, there was testimony to the same effect.

Jerry Gillespie, who for six years was Gritz's partner in the "Almost Heaven" survivalist community in Idaho, told jurors Gritz had asked him to find 10 families who would be willing to hide Wiegand's two sons.

Another witness, a druggist, said that four hours before the alleged kidnap attempt, Linda Wiegand had asked her to rush an antibiotic subscription through because she had "a plane to catch."

And a clerk at a local motel testified that Gritz's son — who is to be tried separately later — had used the false name of "Jim Jones" when booking two rooms near Suffield.

Gritz, who faces a possible 26-year sentence if convicted, is being tried with alleged accomplice Sheldon Robinson. Linda Wiegand, whom Gritz had championed as "a mom without a voice," is not with him.

After several courts found nothing to support her allegations that her ex-husband had abused the children, Wiegand, flouting mandatory court appearances and arrest warrants, went on the lam.